Story By: Darwin Campbell,
GIDDINGS- One of the worst things that can happen to a loved one in the criminal justice system is to be sentenced to years in prison for a crime you did not commit.
Small counties and towns in Texas have long been notorious for settings where the over zealous district attorneys are trying to make names for themselves but have taken advantage of the power of the criminal justice system and used back water juries to convict innocent men.
One such case raises questions that was tried in Lee County, Giddings, Texas in 1995.
Ray Anthony Scott is now serving 99 years of an alleged attempted murder of a White woman at a Giddings motel.
Chester Thornton, Scott’s Defense attorney at the time of the trial, noted that the case deserves a second look because of the details surrounding the case and the trial.
“There are some twists and flimsy evidence that was presented in this case,” Thornton said. “Justice was not served from an evidence standpoint. It is a miscarriage of justice as facts presented were hearsay and one-sided.”
Lee County is located in the state of Texas. As of the 2010, its population was 16,612.
Its county seat is Giddings. Lee County is named for Robert E. Lee, former commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War.
The racial makeup of the county at last census was 76.59% White and 12.08% Black or African-American.
Thornton believes that race played a major factor in the outcome of the case because the good ole’ boy system was in place at the time of the trial.
Scott’s case cries out for a review, not only because it does appear to be a severe miscarriages of justice, but also the DNA data does not link him to the crime. That further raises eyebrows and serious challenges about whether Scott was railroaded down a one-way track in a White county without fair justice.
Adding insult to injury are court records that raise even more questions about the trial, the prosecutor, the evidence presented and the content of the so-called evidence facts presented.
According to records, the trial was one-sided with the Prosecutor Steven Keng presenting his case and then District Judge John L. Placke presiding. Keng, who still lives in Giddings is a private attorney did not return phone calls. Judge Placke has since retired, but his son Martin Placke is the sitting prosecuting attorney.
Calls made by the African-American News&Issues about Scott’s case to his office have not been returned.
On April 20, 1995, Scott was sentenced to 99 years in prison for attempted Capital Murder of Jeanette Nickel, then a prominent White woman in Giddings.
The assault allegedly occurred some 13 years prior at the Classic Inn Motel where Nickel was staying.
Scott was picked up and charged for this alleged assault 13 years later. According to court records, police work had brought in six other possible Black men who were questioned in the original cast for just assault prior to Scott’s arrest.
In April 1995, the charges were changed to Attempted Capital Murder.
Since his incarceration, Scott’s sister Lisa Johnson left her career as a successful model and has been working tirelessly to get officials to take a second look and review the evidence and details in the case in hopes that the real truth will come out and he would be exonerated.
“I want people to know that this case has been a nightmare for me and my family,” she said. “I just want someone to step forward and help us get this overturned and Free Ray. That would be real justice.”
STRANGE COURT DETAILS THAT JUST DON’T SEEM TO ADD UP
During the trial then Prosecutor Steve Keng spent a great deal of time arguing the case for Scott’s conviction to a predominantly White county and a jury that included seven men and five women. Only one person on the jury at the time was Black.
Keng presented a case recorded by the court and the local Giddings Times and News that reflected a host of circumstantial evidence and unchallenged opinions that were accepted as key documentation and testimony and evidence used to convict Scott.
Evidence on record indicates that Mrs. Nickel was unable to identify Scott as her attacker stating she was “struck in the head” and blacked out. However, according to court records she did say her attacker was a “Black man” then in turn said that her attacker may have been Black or of another race. In the appeal document, it was presented that she had told officers that her attacker had short, kinky, Black hair and was Black complected but he did not have a wide nose and features usually associated with African Americans.
Another and perhaps the most bizarre argument used in the case involved defining the description of Scott. Scott did not fit the composite drawing description of the assailant or Keng’s comparison of the artist’s sketch of the assailant did not match.
The quick and strange facts surround that during Scott’s trial, Keng argued for Scott being the man who committed the crime 13 years prior. He went on to give jurors a breakdown in Black anatomical changes and shaped it into an argument that fit the artists sketch analysis. During that presentation, the prosecutor spoke like an “expert witness” describing how Black people’s physical features change.
For example, a detailed description about changes to a Black person’s nose and how it can change from pointed to flat as they age. Also, a presentation on how Black people skin colors changes with the seasons of the year from dark complexions to light. That was used to justify Nickels identifying Scott as her assailant.
Scott, who was very dark skinned, was the square peg fit into the round hole of a light-skinned man to frame him as the man who committed the assault.
However, a clear look at Scott’s picture at the time and the artist’s sketch side by side during the trial bear no resemblance. It clearly shows that the two had different facial features. The drawing of the assailant looked like a foreigner and not a Black man.
It is unknown how Keng could have made those kinds of statement for the record in a critical trial where a man’s future was on the line.
Another point of key interest that should also be noted is that on the night in question, another witness, Paul Brown, an on duty motel assistant manager could not identify Scott definitively either.
According to the appeals document, the owner and the assistant manager went to Nickel’s room and knocked on the door. A man’s face appeared momentarily at the window of the dark room and said everything was alright.
He said he was tackled by the suspect as he attempted to stop him from fleeing.
According to the appeal records, After the fingerprints in the room were identified as appellant’s, officers in Maryland, where Brown then resided, showed Brown a photographic exhibit that included a “poor photograph” of appellant. Brown was unable to identify appellant’s or any other photograph as that of the man he saw run from Nickel’s room.
It should be noted that at the time of this alleged attack, Mrs. Nickel was going through a bitter divorce. Her husband had been inquiring about her activities and whereabouts. Also, reports indicate that at the time of the alleged assault, Mrs. Nickel’s belongings, which included a pistol, diamond rings, a watch and a large sum of money were all left behind.
This is a case that appears to be snared by the DNA tests and need further review by an independent court. The only real evidence present was a partial print. However, in the age of DNA, the blood DNA and testing did not match. In testing from June 2008, Scott was excluded as a contributor to blood evidence submitted from the case.
JUSTICE FOR SCOTT
Anthony Graves, who has been a victim of bad justice and now fights for truth, justice and standing up for right, said the case does need to be addressed.
Graves was exonerated after being on death row and facing death three times before his case was reviewed and overturned after the Innocence Project took his case and worked until he was released.
Graves is now is a motivational speaker who works tirelessly to help young men from entering the pathways that leads to prison.
“This case needs further review,” Graves said. “It is a typical case where there are many like Scott who have been sent to prison by a criminal justice system that simply failed.”
Ray A. Scott is one criminal justice case of many that begs for review. There are a number of obvious flagrant and peculiar things that occurred during this trial that question whether justice was served.
Scott sits in Beaumont in a facility doing time for 99 years based on trumped up charges.
He appears to be an innocent Black man who was made an example of in a county where the Prosecutor Keng said during the punishment phase, “that the stiffness of their sentence would send a message to Ray Anthony Scott and even those in the pen that they don’t want people like that in Lee County.” (Who? Innocent folk?
Jesus clearly states that “things done in the dark will someday come to light,” and this case demonstrates the miscarriage of justice that was done in darkness in Giddings and Lee County.
Now, the world will know of this injustice done to Scott and demand truth, justice and accountability from Judge John Placke and Steve Keng. God already knows what you did.
With injustice being so blatant, we wonder how many other African-Americans who were convicted and sent off and had their lives taken away at the hands of evil men.
Scott has been incarcerated for 13 years, but the details of the case, conviction and situations that landed him there have raised many serious questions about miscarriages and failures in the justice system.
There is only one fact in this case. Ray Anthony Scott has had his life hijacked by a court system in small Texas Town and that should be an outrage!!!!